The purchase of a sword is something which is often not talked about very much. Usually the only concern for people is the potential financial burden that may occur in the purchase. What this does not take into account is the other aspects of the purchase of a sword that the swordsman should take into account. This blog will address the concept of buying a sword and present some considerations that should be made by the buyer.
Buying a sword is an investment, but it is one that many fencers take quite lightly. This should not actually be the case. The purchase of a sword is also something which should signify something to both the purchaser of the weapon and also to the teacher and club to which they belong. No one is ever expected that they will turn up to their first fencing practice with a weapon and other gear already bought. The opposite is a very rare occurrence. What this means is that for a period of time the fencer will borrow a weapon. It may belong to a club, or it may belong to another fencer. The purchase of a sword should signify that the person is ready to commit to the enterprise to which they have taken, of course this is not the only thing that a fencer should be concerned about when buying a sword.
In previous centuries, and even relatively recently. A sword was not simply purchased "off the rack" or out of a collection of examples present, as is mostly the case these days. The fencer was measured for a sword. This was because the swordsman would be relying on that particular weapon to save their life in an armed encounter. For the fencer today fighting someone where there is the potential for serious injury or death is not so much of a concern. In these previous days the make of the sword would also give some indication of the wealth of the owner of the weapon and also their taste as it was worn as a piece of costume jewellery. Once again, this is not the case today. However, some of the considerations made in these previous days should be made by the modern swordsman.
There are examples in treatises by various masters and theorists of the Renaissance and middle ages about the correct length of a sword. Ridolfo Capo Ferro, for example, determined that the correct length of the sword should be twice the length of the arm, and there were others who proposed that the weapon should be longer, or shorter. Needless to say the length of the weapon was proportional to the individual who was using it. For the most part, weapons these days are sold at set lengths or at different ones by special request. While there are many different theories about how long or short a weapon should be, the important thing for the fencer is comfort. This is the most important consideration.
For the most part a sword these days will cost somewhere more than $150. Sure there are some which can be obtained for cheaper, and sure there are those which are substantially more than this, it is a ball-park figure. This for some will be a significant investment on their part and this in itself is significant. A fencer does not want to go out, spend a deal of money and purchase a sword just to find out that it is too heavy, or light, or short, or long. This will result in the sword having to be modified or even replaced, which is another expense on the part of the fencer. In order to avoid this some planning and investigation should be made.
The only real way to see how a sword feels is to pick up the weapon and use it. Of course a shop will not allow you to use the merchandise unless you intend to buy the one that you are using. Taking the weapon and feeling its weight is a good start, being able to move the sword around is also a good thing. So long as you are not causing problems for other customers or stock, some merchants will allow you to do this. For the most part fencers are a reasonable bunch of individuals who will allow you to look and feel a weapon in their possession. Of course you should always ask before handling another person's weapon. This should allow you, once again, to get a feel for the weapon. If the fencer is generous they may even allow you to have a couple of bouts with the weapon in order to get a better feel of it. This is the best way, currently, to get an idea of the feel of different weapons. For the most part, you can then find the same weapon at a merchant.
When selecting a weapon for purchase, a consideration should be made about quality. For the most part a cheaper weapon will not be as high quality as a weapon which is more expensive. This should be a concern for the buyer as the higher quality weapon will last longer than a cheaper weapon, based on quality of manufacture as a general rule. Of course, the fencer must also be concerned about what happens to fall into the fencer's own budget as well. It is advised however, that a fencer spend on the upper limit rather than the lower limit of their budget in order to get a weapon of quality.
Of course when a weapon is on sale then the price is not necessarily a good guide. It is then up to the fencer to talk to others about their weapons and how well they have lasted. Or to start investigating weapon manufacturers in order to get some idea about the quality of the workmanship of various weapons. Two particularly well-known manufacturers of weapons are Darkwood Armory (http://www.darkwoodarmory.com/) and Hanwei (http://www.hanweishop.com/). Both of these manufacturers are commonly known to sell quality weapons. There are others out there, but it is up to the fencer to discover what they want and where from. You can also some on-sellers of the original manufacturers who sell their products. The fencer may even find an individual experienced in sword manufacture and purchase a weapon this way.
The purchase of a weapon for the fencer is a significant investment regardless of how much the actual weapon costs. For the most part this will, or should, be the last piece of equipment that the fencer will purchase in order to complete their basic kit. The fencer should have some serious consideration about what weapon and where they are going to get it from before actually purchasing a weapon. The fencer should be comfortable with the weapon as fighting the weapon in order to get it to do something will reduce the ability of the fencer. A comfortable weapon, comfortable to use, which does not strain the individual is the goal. Be careful when buying a weapon, do your research and consider what you really want before buying.